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I 'Skipped' Ear Training

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by tjnkoo, Apr 3, 2013.

  1. tjnkoo


    Apr 19, 2011
    Metro Atlanta
    I have found myself at an odd crossroads. I was for years self taught and worked on theory and mechanics of the instrument and my ability to get around it, but never ear training. I guess the juvenile me when I started just found it boring but now that I've got a good teacher and am heading to college for bass next year I just feel a little bit of disappointment that I did that. I always read music and learned songs by tabs/sheet music/chord charts/etc.

    I take higher level theory classes, read well (I'm a clasical upright player as well), like to think I play decently well, I can improvise, but due to a lack of ear training I have trouble with even basic dications and such, let alone being able to figure out a song by ear in good time. People who are in low chairs with bad grades in theory and such beat me on ear training tests every time. I've gotten better, but not good enough to keep up with my actual ability to play and get around the instrument if that makes sense. Any advice besides 'just start' that you guys can offer?

    My teacher has given me brief ear training assignments but he is more geared towards playing using theory, less ear training wise. Great teacher, just figured some extra opinions would be good.

    I've yet to hear another decent musician who doesn't have an ear. I guess I 'skipped' ear training.
  2. Your ear is probably more finely tuned than you realize. You do play the upright in tune, right? It's more a question of applying your existing skills in a new format (figuring out tunes). Just keep at it, you will probably catch up in a year or two.
  3. I went into my 2 year music program in bass in the same situation as you. Part of the course was developing dictation skills. Doing ear training classes a few times a week will bring you up to speed quickly. Try not to compare yourself to other players at school. Everyone is at a different place in their playing journey and we hall have strengths and weaknesses.

    Getting into playing by ear... You could try starting with 12 bar blues. First just establishing the key you're in then going from there. Next step might be transcribing 3 or 4 chord pop tunes.

    Hope this helps. Good luck!
  4. Afc70

    Afc70 Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2004
    Northeast Arkansas
    Jam along with cd's and the radio, mp3's and everything else you can find. Jeff Berlin has some good columns regarding this if you can find them. Trying singing or humming tunes as you play them, and there are ear training lessons on YouTube if look there. Best of luck and it sounds like you are already an accomplished bassist, just hang in there and keep on listening :)
  5. Afc70

    Afc70 Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2004
    Northeast Arkansas
    And play chords,- double stops, etc and really listen to the different "tonal colors" between the notes. Really listen to the 3rds, 5ths, etc and try to really hear the different notes within the chord and how they relate and sound to the root.
  6. tmntfan


    Oct 6, 2011
    Edmonton canada
    Defiantly playing along to pop tunes helps. helps you start to hear chord changes and little melody lines.

    singing is also huge. just sing scales as you play them, then keep building on that. Play the first note lets say "G") then sing the second (A) then play it to make sure. then sing a (B) and play to make sure so on and so forth.

    next is arpeggios. play the root. (G) then sing the third(B) play the third, then sing the 5th (D), so on and so forth.
  7. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I'd say that all the "playing" suggestions are more than a little misguided, if you don't know how to play basketball just jumping in some games isn't going to be that helpful, long term. Actual ear training involves understanding, recognition and, most importantly, the ability to sing accurately. If you are really hearing the interval/arpeggio/line, you will be able to sing it with accuracy.
    Here is the methodology that I worked on with my teacher, I didn't make it to the part where we were working with 4 part chords with 1 and 2 tensions.
  8. KodyAudette


    Apr 30, 2012

    Sing it. Even if you're not a singer, practice singing basic major and minor scales, practice 1-3-5 arpeggios major, minor, augmented, and diminished. Once you're comfortable with those, move to 1-3-5-7-1s. Practice those patterns in different keys. Once you've done this a bit, practice it with your instrument, sing the first note, then play it on your instrument, sing the second note, then play it on your instrument, checking each time for how accurate you were.
  9. tjnkoo


    Apr 19, 2011
    Metro Atlanta
    Thanks for the advice, but believe it or not I already do this almost daily. My ear is developed fairly well for intonation though, as I do play upright generally in tune as well as an inlined fretless electric.

    You guys have any other ideas. I think as someone earlier said its different application of my hearing that's tripping me up maybe? I'm still trying to figure it out.
  10. I suggested that. Perhaps the double-stop drills will help, or singing one note and playing a harmony. Or play double stops and sing the third note of the triad. Getting the "sonic feel" of chords is what you want, to help you with figuring out what the piano and guitarist are playing. I also always cheat and look at their hands. A combination of everything is fair game, really.

    The rigorous ear training through singing intervals can't hurt at all though.
  11. t77mackie


    Jun 13, 2012
    Wormtown, MA
    Transcribe songs. There's always a steady stream of tab requests here you can work on. After you do a few you'll start to see how 2+2=4 and connect your ear with your brain.

    good luck!
  12. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Start with simple stuff. Play arpeggions and really listen to the intervals. Get familiar with chords and sing the intervals. Even if you sing badly, it's all good, and if it turns out you sing well, then there's another marketable skill that REALLY helps you get gigs ;) Learning how to play piano along with bass can really help, too. You don't even have to be good at it. Just learning how to form chords and pick out melodies on a keyboard is often enough to kickstart your ear training. It'll come if you work at it enough. Just don't go nuts and learn the simple things first...simple melodies, simple chords and intervals, etc. It'll come.
  13. I've have the exact same story and problem! Learned to play by reading charts, notation tabs and by looking at other people never by ear!
    I took some ear training classes those helped a little bit but working out songs quickly by ear is my main goal so i can apply it to live situations and play with others better.

    here's my thread, where i found some cool info


    lots of interval training exercises out there you have to keep at it though, hope it helps

    i work on the 28 day exercise for now till i get all my individual intervals down solid and work out a tune or a part of it. EVERYDAY.
    Once i finish the 28day exercise and i feel i have learned the sounds of all intervals ascending and descending better i will start with another cool exercise involving hearing two and then more notes together harmonically. will find add the link to it later.

    some more awesomesauce information there

    dont mean to over load you with information though! am struggling at it myself but really "internalizing" all the intervals ascending and descending is the KEY! then moving on to hearing chords, progression etc comes later. But applying it all in a natural way by figuring out simple songs is ultra important for it to become a natural process.

    for me another another problem is lazyness/fear, since i feel down if i can figure out a song i try to avoid working on it all together! which is the worst thing you can do! so ill get back to it now! good luck!
  14. and yeah dont forget RHYTHMIC ear training! it might be more intuitive and easier for some but its pretty crucial as well! starts with internalizing sub-divisions, i dont have any exercises or links to it off hand but "academically" it was a part of Berkley ET1 and ET2 books i studied with a local teacher here and the rest is just figuring out stuff from records by slowing it down etc along with some Groove exercises by Mr wooten, wellington and other bass players
  15. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    I was in the same situation when I went to study music at my college, I was also playing DB at that time. Since I was good with the instrument but I've never practice singing a scale, arpeggio or recognize a simple melody I placed in basic ear training class where we went over the most basic stuff before going in the real ear training class.

    I was really bad ... I have been playing for four years when I wen to college ... so my first month was very hard but I became better very fast since everything you'll learn is usable in another class. Something that helped me a lot is to play the first note of the sheet music and sing the rest, then play it. Play it while singing. I also participated in a classical choir which helped a lot too.

    I'm still not that great with that but I have other very strong hability so whatever. And well, here when people talk about ear training they talk about chords and nothing else. since most rock songs use simple candaza like 1-4-5 well ... you only have to figure out the first chord and play whatever as long as it goes with the chords, they don't even bother trying to figure out the real recorded bass line.
  16. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    Also my ear training class cover :

    Interval : major 2, min2, maj3, min3, 4, 5, maj6, min6, maj7, min7 and octave. ascending and descending

    Melody recognition : the teacher play a 8 bars theme like 6 times where you have to be able to write it without an instrument in your hand. at one point their is also modulation ... You will have to sing those melody too. Like the teacher will play the scale, the arpeggio then gives you the first note and you sing the rest.

    Chords : Where you have to recognize a chord, starting simple like a Minor, Major and Dominant in first position, then you add maj6 and min6 chord, maj7 and min7 dominant7. Then inversion of those chords. Then you add diminsh and augmented. Of course you'll have to sing a chord starting by the lowest note to the top including the inversion.

    Rythm : The teacher will play a 8 bars or whatever melody where you only have to figure out the rythm and the time signature like 4/4, 3/4, 6/8 etc and of course it get very hard very fast. Of course you'll have to sing the rythm.

    I don't know how you call that in english but it was a chords progression with the lowest note moves a lot. So you have to figure out the lowest note if you want to write the chords as it should be.

    I-I6/4-IV-V-II2-V4-I and the bass line could do : C-G-F-G-C-F-C
    something like that
  17. j.kernodle

    j.kernodle Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2008
    South Carolina
  18. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    The only way you can skip ear training is to never listen to or think about music. I've been playing music for literally longer than I can remember, and just through listening, I have a very good ear. It's not like some people have good ears and some don't. It's just all neural connections that are made through listening. The more you listen and think about all kinds of music, the better your ear will be.

    That said, doing ear training exercises couldn't hurt, since I'm assuming they exist because they are efficient. What I'm saying is that it's impossible to play any instrument for a long time and have a "bad" ear.
  19. t77mackie


    Jun 13, 2012
    Wormtown, MA
    Great points Ez and varunk.

    Rhythm is just as important as tone. But with today's technology the computer is a big help in getting notes right rhythmically. It's like having spell check.

    When trying to transcribe I need to be able to 'hear' the melody in my head, then be able to hum or sing it in key. Having a good ear for that is probably crucial.
  20. sammyp


    Aug 20, 2010
    NB, Canada
    lot's of great suggestions ...i'd also add it's 2013 ....there are lot's of free or low cost ear trainers for ipod, iphone, android, pc, mac etc

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